Christmas video set

All three of the songs I performed last week for the Kettle & Wink virtual Xmas session are now up on YouTube. NB these were try-outs, not the actual set: you’d have to go to the Facebook group page for that. If you were really that desperate…

It’s an unusual set for me in that none of the songs are completely original, though the third is a parody.

The first was written in the late 19th century by Charlie Case, and learned way back in the 20th century from the late and very great Diz Disley. Which is why it’s a bit jazzier than you might expect from me… ‘The Fatal Glass of Beer’.

The second is a song by Ewan MacColl that I haven’t sung in many decades: ‘Ballad of the Carpenter’. MacColl’s view of the story of Christ reflects his own leanings towards communism rather than a traditional religious view: while that’s fine with me, I’ve followed Phil Ochs’s adaptation and somewhat softened the Politburo resonances.

Somehow, I’ve never quite felt that ‘The Snowman’ quite reflects my own experience of Christmas.

David Harley

The Fancy Passes (audio capture)

I’ve posted other versions of this, but I quite liked this one, audio captured from a video set I did for ‘Own Your Voice’ a few days ago. I’ve slightly processed it to reduce clipping, but I’ll probably replace it with a mastered version later on. It’s one of my settings of a poem from ‘A Shropshire Lad’, published in 1896 by A.E. Housman (d. 1936). I’m currently working on a recording project centred on Shropshire which is likely to include several of my Housman settings.

A Shropshire Lad XVIII

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they’ll say that I
Am quite myself again.

David Harley

Christmas(-ish) video

I haven’t paid that much attention to Christmas in recent years except when besieged by children and grandchildren, so it’s probably not going to surprise you that this is closer to Scrooge in spirit than to the current rash of feel-good seasonal movies…

Anyway, participating in some solstice-ish live video projects has actually got me back into the home studio for the first time in a while, so there’ll probably be some of the more serious stuff also turning up here and on Facebook in the next few days.

David Harley

CD Review – Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire

Last in a series of reviews for of a series of CDs on a seasonal theme. While this one is loosely linked to summer, it’s largely focused on work and emigration issues.

HANZ ARAKI & KATHRYN CLAIRE – The Emigrant’s Song/The Laborer’s Lament (The Celtic Conspiracy CELCON003)

David Harley


  1. After The Ball

After the celebrations
We found your bed and
Tipsily but enthusiastically
Redefined our bodies
And extended our personal space

We restructured our histories
Formulating new interpretations
Of riddles older than Nostradamus
Or the Rosetta Stone

Older, perhaps
Than love


  1. Afterwards

Darkness descends upon us
A warm cloak
Of soft-woven slumber

Ghostly spinners
In Disneyland turrets
Watch the joyless minuet
Of the bobbins

To the grating polyphony
Of the wheels

Dust settles
On stone flags


  1. Valkyrié

Far into New Year’s Day
The burnt-in end of the morning
Is force-fed into my vision

I hear you bustle listlessly in the kitchen
As I huddle beneath suddenly-thin blankets
Tracing another footprint on the infinitely slippery slope
From oblivion to obliteration

From shawl to shawl to shroud

One year further from Christ
And closer to Armageddon

Later I walk back alone
To my bedsit Valhalla

O but the winds bite fiercer this year
Gnawing through muscle ever closer to the bone

O but the thermometer is falsely cheerful

The calendar quotes with cruel precision
52 weeks progress from snowfall to snowfall

I have no time to accommodate the encroachment of middle age
I need time to decide what to be when I grow up

For now, I fill the kettle
And hope against hope for your phone-call

(c) 1986 David Harley

Podcast – A Solstice Garland

Here’s another podcast project: a slightly mildewed Christmas/Solstice garland of music and verse, much of it mine. (Sorry!)

Here are the details of what’s featured, not in strict order.

‘The Holly’ is a traditional carol from Canadian band Atlantic Union. Used by kind permission of the band. “Christmas in the Harbour”, from which the track is taken, is available here and my Mixcloud review of Atlantic Union’s CD “Indulgence” is to be found here.

‘The Fatal Glass of Beer’ is usually credited to Charlie Case, who died in 1916.

‘On Bredon Hill’ is my setting of a poem by A.E. Housman from ‘A Shropshire Lad’. I know it starts “In summertime on Bredon…” but it does get to Christmas eventually, if somewhat tragically.

‘Carpentry’ is an instrumental version of my setting of ‘The Carpenter’s Son’, also from ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

The poems (to put it more politely than literary critics are likely to) ‘Warm-up’, ‘Charade’, ‘Performance Poem’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ are mine, and can be found with other shaggy doggerel at this site.

‘I Heard a Bird Sing’ is by Oliver Herford (1860-1935), and my review for of the album by Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire is here.

The project will probably get its own page eventually.

David Harley